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October 2006
In October 1990 ABC aired an interview with a man who, so they believed, had played Buckwheat in the Our Gang series during the 1930s. I have a page about this case of mistaken identity in the hoaxes throughout history gallery:
Buckwheat was the wide-eyed, African-American character played for almost ten years by William Thomas. He was famous for his signature phrase, "O-Tay!" After leaving the show, Thomas dropped from the public eye. 20/20 claimed that it had tracked him down to Tempe, Arizona where he was working at a low-paying job as a grocery bagger. It aired an interview with him in which he talked about the cruel twists and turns his life had taken. Unfortunately for 20/20, the man they interviewed was not William Thomas... The man 20/20 interviewed was an impostor named Bill English who had been claiming to be Buckwheat for the past 30 years.
And I've just now discovered that YouTube has a video from 1990 of A Current Affair interviewing the Buckwheat imposter, after he was exposed. Even though it was clear no one was buying his story any more, the guy still insisted he was Buckwheat. Kind of sad and funny at the same time.

Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 11, 2006
Comments (11)
Officials in Malawi apparently claimed that Madonna asked them to select a group of children from local orphanages, from which she chose one for adoption. Spokeswoman Adrina Michiela said: "She asked us to identify boys only, which we have done after visiting four orphanages in Lilongwe."

However, Madonna, through her publicist, is denying this claim.
"I can confirm Madonna is in Malawi on a private visit. She is building an orphanage and child care center and is involved in other initiatives geared toward helping children orphaned by AIDS through the Raising Malawi organization. She has not adopted a baby despite reports that she has. She's kind of adopting an entire country of children"
I found this interesting because my sister has been living in Malawi for the past four years and has yet to generate international headlines on account of it. She's been helping design public health campaigns there. Last week she even adopted a genuine Malawi puppy. But not a whisper from the media. I'm planning to visit her there sometime next year. It will be my first trip to Africa. Unfortunately Lake Malawi doesn't have a resident monster, so I can't claim the trip as a tax write-off, the way I did my trip to Loch Ness.

Update: You could get whiplash trying to follow this Madonna adoption story. Now the word is that she really has adopted a baby in Malawi.
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 09, 2006
Comments (13)
False Lobster
Maine Senator Olympia Snowe is lobbying to remove the pelagic crab known as "langostino lobster" from restaurant menus in Maine.
The issue came to light after a California-based restaurant chain, Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, was sued last year by customers for using the less expensive langostino instead of lobster in its "lobster burrito."

"Rubio's decision to put cheaper and inferior langostino meat on its menus as 'lobster' is a material fraud uniformly affecting hundreds of thousands of California consumers," plaintiff lawyer Ray Gallo wrote in court documents.

Pine Cone 'Help' Hoax
A careful 'help' was spelt out in pine cones at a junction of two roads in Oregon, complete with an arrow pointing out into the woods. After a nine-person, six-hour search, it was deemed to be a hoax.
Categories: Animals, Birth/Babies, Celebrities, Food, Pranks
Posted by Flora on Mon Oct 09, 2006
Comments (14)
image The latest in the long series of what are known as 'Nigerian Scams' is one featuring bulldog puppies.

Three red flags went up when Mindy Gorman enquired after a $500 bulldog advertised on the Savannah Morning News website. When she emailed the sellers, they replied with an announcement that the puppies had been sold, but:

"... You're lucky to have mailed at this time because the puppy has just been placed on adoption by one of my customers, who went on a veterinarian work transfer with the West African veterinarian commission Lagos Nigeria, West Africa. He is giving the pup up for adoption because he cant take good care of the pup due to his busy and tight state of work. All he wants is someone that's homely and with a good christian home to adopt this young and lovely human best friend."

Then there was the fact that the seller was in Nigeria. Thirdly, when she offered to pay to the transport of the puppy using Pay Pal, the seller, who identified himself as 'Pastor Harry', said that he would only accept a $500 payment sent to Lagos via Western Union.

Ms Gorman did not go through with the transaction, but another customer in the area lost $900 on the scam.

Jeff Thomas, with the Savannah office of the U.S. Secret Service, was unaware of the Nigerian puppy scam. But the details, including the offer of English bulldogs in a state where the biggest football mascot is the same breed, didn't surprise him.
"These folks are not dumb," he said. "They may do their homework in terms of regional interest. People here are nuts about Georgia football."
Thomas suggests puppy lovers approach any Nigerian offers with skepticism.

The website no longer runs the advertisement.
Categories: Animals, Con Artists
Posted by Flora on Mon Oct 09, 2006
Comments (398)
image The literary world has been talking about a work of fiction that managed a brief masquerade as nonfiction. The book is An Incomplete History of the Art of the Funerary Violin, by Rohan Kriwaczek. As the title suggests, it tells the history of that popular genre of music, funerary violin music. The Guardian reports:
By the early 19th century, the book says, virtually every town had its own funerary violinist, but the tradition was almost wiped out in the Great Funerary Purges of the 1830s and 40s. The author, Rohan Kriwaczek, describes himself on a site on as being the president of the guild that represents a dwindling band of musicians dedicated to this largely forgotten art-form. But all references to the guild lead back to Kriwaczek, and several experts on the history of the violin say they have never heard of him or the tradition.
The book will be published next month by Duckworth Publishers in Britain, and Overlook Press in America. The publisher claims that it believed the book to be a work of genuine nonfiction. Or rather, it didn't care too much whether it was fiction or nonfiction because it thought the book was interesting. The hoax was "exposed" by a book-buyer in Iowa City who saw the book described in Overlook's catalog, thought it looked fishy, and brought it to the attention of David Schoenbaum, an expert in the history of the violin and also a reviewer for the New York Times. The Times then revealed the hoax.

Personally I'm thinking the publisher probably had a hand in the exposure of the hoax. What better publicity could a book get than to be "exposed" by the Times right before its debut?
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 09, 2006
Comments (15)
On this footage from Google Video, it seems that a soldier is able to twist his head a full 180 degrees.

One of the tags for the video says 'fake', and I can't work out whether or not it is (partially due to the problems I'm having with my computer, which means that video tends to make it shut down).

My gut feeling says it isn't real, though.
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Flora on Thu Oct 05, 2006
Comments (18)
imageThe floor of this elevator, in Taiwan, is painted to look as if there is no floor, just the lift shaft.

As someone who's terrified of heights, I would need to be crowbarred into this lift. There's not a chance of me voluntarily travelling in it - it would freak me out too much. Yes, I'm a wuss.

(Thanks, Charybdis.)
Categories: Art
Posted by Flora on Wed Oct 04, 2006
Comments (22)
imageBanyan Tree Gets Police Protection
A century-old banyan tree in Jakarta has been given police protection after a group of youths attacked it to prove it had no mystical powers.

Parents Kidnap Bride-To-Be
The day before her wedding, Julianna Redd's parents told her they were taking her on a shopping trip. Instead, they drove her 240 miles to Colorado and held her there until after the wedding was supposed to take place.

3D Studies of the Mona Lisa
New 3D studies of the Mona Lisa have led scientists to be able to pinpoint more precisely the date it was painted.

Common Job Scams
A brief rundown of some of the most common job scams.

(Thanks, Accipiter.)
Categories: Art, Law/Police/Crime, Miscellaneous
Posted by Flora on Wed Oct 04, 2006
Comments (6)
imageimageNasser Khan left his car in what he was sure was an unmarked section of road. He was understandably bemused to return the next morning only to find yellow lines beneath his car and a ticket for illegal parking on his windscreen.

CCTV footage showed workmen crouching beneath the car to paint in the lines, whilst a traffic warden waited to write the ticket.

It appears that the machinery used to paint the lines damaged the tyres on Mr Khan's car, which were then declared unroadworthy by a local garage. Salford City Council have quashed the ticket, but refuse to pay for damages to his car.

A witness to the odd event, who works in a neighbouring building, said: "We saw a group of workmen and two traffic wardens surround the car for several minutes. One of the workmen came back and crouched under the car to paint the yellow line, and then the traffic warden issued the ticket. A friend of mine caught the whole thing on his mobile phone as we thought the driver might need evidence to contest the ticket."
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Miscellaneous
Posted by Flora on Wed Oct 04, 2006
Comments (16)
Rich Mitchell may lose his job after making a mock documentary portraying his staff as killers, strippers and drug dealers.

The Bremen High School District Superintendent did video interviews with his faculty members, then spliced in his own footage.
"How do you like to unwind?" Bremen High School District Superintendent Rich Mitchell asks in the mock documentary that he later posted on the Internet. The tape cuts to a teacher who replies: "I enjoy a lot of leisure activities."

"Such as?" Mitchell asks.

"Killing," says the teacher.

Mitchell asks another teacher: "What were the results of the last drug test that you took?"

The reply: "It was positive."

The 'mockumentary' was first aired in front of 500 faculty and staff members at a back-to-school seminar. Mitchell then posted the footage, along with outtakes, on the District's web site. The film has since been removed from the site.

School board president Evelyn Gleason is quoted as saying: "I personally think he stepped over the line when it went on the Web site. We're a great district, we have wonderful teachers and students and this is not representative of them. I think it was a bad idea gone wrong."

The seven-member board will conduct an investigation.

(Thanks, Accipiter.)
Categories: Photos/Videos, Pranks
Posted by Flora on Wed Oct 04, 2006
Comments (10)
Man Dives 50 Feet for 20 Dollars
$20 blew out of Mark Giorgio's hand when he was crossing a bridge. So he followed it.

Prisoners Train as Crocodile Handlers
Five prisoners from Darwin Correction Centre in Northern Australia are currently involved in an 11-week rehabilitation pilot scheme.

Mosquito Dance Track
The Mosquito anti-teenager device has theoretically already been used as a ring tone. Now it's being made into a dance track - 'Buzzin' - which mixes two tracks, one normal, and one using the Mosquito technology.

Chess Championship Split Over Loo Breaks
Viktor Kramnik of Russia has been accused of cheating during his multiple toilet breaks. He and Veselin Topalov are playing for the title of world chess champion and the bathrooms are the only area not under video surveillance.
(Thanks, Accipiter.)

Ethnic Games End in Cross-dressing and Gang Violence
After several contestants in the women's dragon-boat racing event were described as "big women with Adam's apples", it was found that they were men in wigs. Then a dispute over a wrestling final sparked off a violent brawl.
(Thanks, LaMa.)
Categories: Animals, Entertainment, Law/Police/Crime, Sports
Posted by Flora on Mon Oct 02, 2006
Comments (8)
A sixteen-year-old Asian elephant named Kosik has been found to echo eight words back to his keeper. Staff at the South Korean amusement park say that Korik 'says' words such as 'yes', 'no', 'sit' and 'lie down' by putting his trunk into his mouth and shaking it whilst exhaling.

It is not known whether Kosik knows the meaning of the words, but spectograms show that the elephant's voice frequency is a 94% match with his keeper's voice, prompting speculation that he is trying to bond with the keeper by copying the noises.

Video can be found here.

(Thanks, Nettie.)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Flora on Mon Oct 02, 2006
Comments (8)

Woman eats 1.5kg of sand daily
Ram Rati, 80, credits her good health to her sand-eating habit. I'm amazed she's still alive if she really eats that every day. Sounds to me like she may have the eating disorder pica.

A case of gnome-icide
Store causes controversy by selling "stabbed" gnomes. "Shelly Oldfield, of Wakefield, was shopping with her elderly mother at Tong Garden Centre, Bradford, when they stumbled across the lifeless bodies – on sale for £9.99 each – and raised the alarm."

Hamster grounds airplane
A plane is forced to land to search for a passenger's escaped hamster. Big Gary notes: "New terrorist weapon-- hamsters."

Telepathic Chiropractor loses his license
James Burda claimed that "he possessed the power to heal clients via techniques he dubbed "Bahlaqeem Vina" and "Bahlaqeem Jaqem," made-up terms that he said described his ability to go back in time to the date of an injury and realign bones and joints using telekinetic vibration." Now he's lost his chiropractor's license. (But do chiropractor's even need a license to practice?) Check out his website if you're interested in how to do a Vibrational Vina on your weyzic.

Viagra Fish
Tiny Ayrai Kunchu fish have become all the rage in India, thanks to a rumor spread by fishermen that the fish have a Viagra-like effect (i.e. they cure impotence). However, "While it is believed that the fish can cure male impotency, those who sell it are not able to say what quantity of the fish must be consumed to achieve the Viagra-like effect." Sounds like the perfect recipe for a scam. If it's not working, they'll tell you it's because you need to eat even more.
Categories: Animals, Food, Gnomes
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 02, 2006
Comments (12)
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